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Wednesday, June 2, 1999 Published at 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK

Business: The Company File

Bank reviews evangelist links

Bank executives have viewed Mr Robertson's comments

The Bank of Scotland has confirmed it is reviewing its links with the US evangelist Pat Robertson after he said Scotland was "a dark country" overrun by homosexuals.

The bank has come under increasing pressure to sever its business ties with Mr Robertson. It plans to launch a telephone banking operation in the United States with Robertson Financial Services.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell: "No indication that the Bank will pull of a deal with the TV evangelist"
The value of Bank of Scotland shares dropped by 32.5p to 850p at the close of trading in London on Wednesday.

Bank executives decided to review the contract with Mr Robertson after watching the preacher's broadcast - which is available on the Internet.

Attempts are being made to arrange a meeting between officials, Mr Robertson and his advisers in the US later this week.

"In Scotland, you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are," Mr Robertson said on his Virginia-based Christian Broadcasting Network and his 700 Club television show.

[ image: Pat Robertson: Scotland a
Pat Robertson: Scotland a "dark land"
The evangelist was a one-time presidential candidate for the Republican party and is regarded as an inspiration to the "moral majority" movement of right-wing Christians in the United States.

He believes that Scotland is violating its Christian heritage by tolerating gays and lesbians.

Scotland's churches - the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church - have come in for special criticism from Mr Robertson, because they have ordained homosexuals.

But Gene Kapp, a spokesman for Mr Robertson, said the comments were taken out of context.

"He indicated that Scotland has a great, proud history and like many places in Europe and in the United States, what really needs to happen is a return to the more traditional values, period. It really had nothing to do with the homosexual issue.

[ image:  ]
"What has happened is there has been, in some of the Scottish and UK media, an effort to distort his position on issues and a republication of quotes attributed to him that are either not factually correct or taken out of context in many cases."

Some Scots appear to be unhappy that their bank should do business with a man who holds such views.

The bank acknowledges that up to 500 people have switched their accounts to other banks.

More damaging is the loss of large institutional customers, and the general damage to the bank's image.

The new Scottish Parliament holds an account with the bank and some MSPs have said they will call for it to be closed.

West Lothian Council in Scotland meets later this month to consider whether to continue depositing funds with the bank or withdraw them.

[ image: Some customers have switched their allegiance to other banks]
Some customers have switched their allegiance to other banks
The Scottish Trades Union Congress has threatened to switch the business of 100,000 of its members, who use a Bank of Scotland affinity card. A spokesman said: "Our contract expires in a few months and we will be looking carefully at recent events."

ActionAid, a charity active in developing countries, has threatened to do the same.

Scotland's national ecumenical organisation, Action of Churches Together in Scotland, is pondering whether to call for a boycott of the bank, while Edinburgh City Council has formally has condemned the deal.

The United States may be the world's top financial market place, but its banking industry has not quite kept pace with developments. The Bank of Scotland is seen to be particularly adept at gaining customers by offering new banking services.

[ image:  ]
In co-operation with supermarket chain Sainsbury, the bank set up the phone-banking venture Sainsbury's Bank, which gained some 800,000 customers and about £2bn ($3bn) deposits within two years.

Doing business with Mr Robertson will help the bank to break into the huge US market. The evangelist's most important asset in the deal is his fabled mailing list of the hundreds of thousands of people sharing his beliefs and listening to his gospel.

The bank says that it is expecting to have access to this "huge data bank" of names and addresses.

But Mr Robertson has sworn never to sell the names on this list - and the transatlantic banking deal reportedly does not guarantee access to the evangelists flock.

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02 Mar 99 | The Company File
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Watch Pat Robertson's broadcast in which he made the comments (29mins into the programme)

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